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The Loss of ‘Main Street, USA’ aka the High Street After COVID-19

Janathan Allen looks at the future of main street businesses in the US in light of Covid-19
By Janathan L. Allen, Partner/Tax Attorney from Allen Barron, Inc., specialists in complex international tax issues.
Published on August 20, 2020

Main Street USA

The pandemic continues to affect health and commerce worldwide. Our primary concern is of course the health and well-being of the citizenry. The next priority is the impact of COVID-19 on the local and international economy. The long term implications have already begun to manifest: We face the loss of Main Street businesses after COVID-19.

How has the pandemic generally affected small business? What is difference between those who will close their doors forever and those who will survive and ultimately thrive?

Most Main Street businesses around the world enjoyed a banner year in 2019. 2020 dawned with even more excitement. The vast majority of Main Street businesses (66%) expected to see continued business and revenue growth. Early economic returns bore this out.

March happened. COVID-19 happened.

According to a major payroll company in the US, 5% of Main Street businesses closed their doors forever in the first three weeks of the pandemic. YELP, a market leading business review site, reported in late July that 55% of the businesses who had closed their doors due to the pandemic were closed forever.

These are small businesses. Local businesses. High/Main Street businesses. Small businesses which contribute to the diversity, vibrancy and economic viability of our cities and towns. Many have served our communities for decades and employed local people whose income supported our local economies.

The majority are primarily restaurants, franchises and retailers, however the pandemic has impacted day-to-day business across all sectors. From beauty salons to gyms, auto parts stores to clothing boutiques. A major US restaurant booking service predicts one in four local eating establishments won’t ever be able to reopen. Long-term market staple national retailers which anchored many shopping centers and malls across the country have permanently shuttered operations.

COVID-19 has affected almost every sector of US and international business. What will become of Main Street? What is the path through this monumental challenge and beyond?

Business owners around the world have basically two choices: stick their head in the sand and hope this will all blow over, or sharpen their swords and spears and evolve.

This is a time for innovation. New ways of thinking. New ways to serve the market and structure new products to serve the populace.

Demand still exists. The evidence of this is a spectacular rise in business for Amazon and major delivery services worldwide. It is genuinely much harder to source goods, especially from foreign markets. Delivery time frames are extended and costs have increased.

Sir Winston Churchill famously quipped “When the battle drum beats, it is too late to sharpen your sword.”

Not this time. There was no warning. No time for preparation. It’s survive, temporarily suspend operations or close forever. What is it going to be for your business?

The most obvious lines of strategy are associated with supply and demand. You must find new ways to source the products, components, ingredients or supplies to support or increase your offerings. How can existing products evolve or be modified to fit the new reality?

You must also consider how you are going to get the attention of and transact business with your customers. Surviving Main Street businesses have physically altered the inside of their business, offer call ahead ordering and curbside “touchless” delivery. Better yet, deliver it to your customer’s door!

Is it too late to evolve? To change the very nature of your business and your strategy for creating demand with a steady supply chain management strategy?

The facts on the High and Main Streets around the world are clear: there is a lot less competition and there will be a lot more real estate available on the High/Main Street. Will you take a delivery of sand or a strong supply of blade sharpening tools?

Allen Barron, Inc. & Janathan L. Allen, APC specialize in complex international tax issues. For more info go to www.allenbarron.com or contact Janathan directly via email; jallen@allenbarron.com

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